The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.


When the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House opened 40 years ago last week, it only had seven rooms.

Since then, the first Ronald McDonald House in the country has grown into two houses, one on 39th and Chestnut streets with 45 rooms and one on Front and Erie with 18 rooms. Each serves as a “home away from home” for families of terminally ill children who are being treated at local hospitals, according to the program’s website.

But now, there isn’t enough space in the house to accommodate families seeking treatment. In 2013, the house served 2,379 families from 46 states and 20 countries but turned away 2,888 families due to lack of space and resources.

“This devastating statistic highlights both the demand for our services and the need to increase capacity,” Susan Campbell, executive director of the Philadelphia House, said in an email statement provided by a spokesperson.

That’s why on Friday, at the 40th anniversary celebration of Philadelphia’s Ronald McDonald House, Campbell announced the launch of a fundraising campaign to expand the house’s capacity .

“Because we are always full and there is always a waiting list, we are looking to expand for the future,” said Jennifer Shipman, director of marketing and communications for the Philadelphia House. “The 40th anniversary was a pivotal turning point, because we recognized the need and kicked off the fundraising to grow the house.”

For those who are able to use the house, it has been immensely beneficial.

The family of Emily Whitehead, a six-year old girl in 2012 who had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, benefited from the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House by staying there when she was successfully treated by Penn professor Carl June’s experimental immune therapy treatment.

The Ronald McDonald House only charges $15 per night. But for the nearly 55 percent of families who are unable to stay at the house due to capacity limits, there could be extra costs.

“Right now, only about 20 percent of our patients benefit from the house because capacity is limited,” June said. “The Ronald McDonald House is important because our hospital system doesn’t provide infrastructure to take care of out-of-town pediatric cases, and it needs more space.”

Friday’s gala was the first step toward increasing space at the Philadelphia house. Over 1,000 supporters attended the anniversary gala, emceed by CBS3 personalities Chris May and Kathy Orr. The largest sponsor at the gala was the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which donated $50,000 to secure two tables for twenty people.

Four Penn doctors — June and his colleagues Stephan Grupp, Bruce Levine and David L. Porter — were also honored at the gala with the Dr. Audrey E. Evans Award of Excellence for their immune therapy work using genetically modified HIV cells to treat children, like Whitehead, with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

The anniversary gala culminated with a live auction, in which the emcees auctioned off contributions to the future of the Ronald McDonald House and raised over $200,000 to contribute to future construction and expansion of the house and its services.

“Families travel from all over the world to Philadelphia because some diseases can only be treated here, and the Children’s Hospital especially is the gold standard,” Shipman said. “So, there’s always going to be a high need for the Ronald McDonald House.”

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.